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The Young Engineers in Mexico; Or, Fighting the Mine Swindlers By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 16195

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:02

At the head of the shaft, Nicolas, the servant, awaited them.

"Nicolas, you rascal!" exclaimed Don Luis, angrily. "You have not been attending your caballeros."

"Your pardon, excellency, but the automobile moved too swiftly for me," pleaded Nicolas. "All the way to the mine I ran, and here I have waited until now."

"Keep pace with your duties hereafter, scoundrel," commanded Don

Luis, angrily.

Nicolas stepped meekly to the rear of the party. It was his business to attend Tom and Harry everywhere. In Mexico one of the grade of gentleman, if he wishes only a glass of water, does not go for it; he sends the attending servant.

This time Nicolas slipped up on the front seat of the car beside the chauffeur. The car traveled at a high rate of speed over the rough road.

"It must cost you a mint of money for tires and repairs, not to speak of new cars," laughed Tom, after he had been bounced up two feet in the air as the automobile ran over a rough place in the road.

"Pouf! What does it matter, to a man who owns El Sombrero?" smiled Don Luis Montez.

"I am answered," Tom agreed. "The price of a few imported cars cannot matter much to you."

"How many better mines than El Sombrero have you seen?" questioned the mine owner, leaning forward.

"None," said Tom, promptly.

"If all days' indications are as good as those of to-day," Harry added.

"To-day has been but a poor day at the mine," murmured Dr. Tisco.

"Then El Sombrero is indeed a marvel," Tom declared.

"It is a very rich mine," nodded Don Luis. "Yet there may be richer ones, in these mountains, yet undiscovered."

"Where is the next best mine around here?" Tom inquired.

"Perhaps it is El Padre," murmured Don Luis, after a slight pause.

"Where is El Padre (the Priest) located?" Tom wanted to know.

"It is about four miles from here, up over that road," Don Luis rejoined, pointing out the direction.

"May I ask if El Padre is one of your properties, Don Luis?"

Tom continued.

"No; why should I want it when I own El Sombrero?"

"Not unless you wish to own as many mines as possible."

"El Sombrero should be enough for my greatest dreams of wealth," declared Don Luis, closing his eyes dreamily.

Then the car stopped before the house.

Don Luis alighted, Tom and Harry at his heels. A servant appeared at the entrance to the court and informed him that the midday meal was ready to serve.

"We will go to the table, then," exclaimed the Mexican. "After having luncheon we shall be ready for an afternoon of hard work."

No sooner had the young engineers slipped into their seats at table than Nicolas appeared behind their chairs. He served them gravely and without a word.

For nearly an hour the luncheon lasted. Finally the dishes were cleared away and several boxes of cigars were brought. Tom and Harry both declined them. Dr. Tisco lighted a cigar at once; Don Luis spent much time in selecting his cigar. This he lighted with the same deliberation. At last the mine owner settled back in his seat.

"Caballeros," he inquired, suddenly, "what did you think of El Sombrero?"

"I would call it, Don Luis," Harry replied, with enthusiasm, "the finest mine I have seen or heard of."

"You did not see the best of the ore to-day," Montez assured them.

"What ore we did see is as fine as any we would ever wish to see,"

Tom said.

"Then you were delighted with the mine?" inquired their host, turning to Reade and speaking more eagerly.

"If the ore always runs as well," Tom rejoined, "it ought to be one of the richest gold and silver properties in the world."

"Pouf! The ore usually runs much better-is worth much more than that which you saw to-day," protested Don Luis.

"Then you are to be congratulated on possessing a treasure among mines," Tom commented.

"I am delighted to hear you say that."

"But when we adjourn to your office," Reade continued, "there are a few questions that I shall want to ask you."

"Why not ask them here, Senor Tomaso?" queried Don Luis, in his purring, half affectionate voice.

"Here at your table?" protested Reade.

"But this is not dinner. This is a mere business luncheon," replied

Don Luis, with another smile.

"Yet I would like to discuss some of the samples with you, Don Luis," Tom explained. "Surely, you do not wish me to bring out dirty samples to spread on your fine linen."

"It would matter not," declared the Mexican. "Still, if you have scruples about the proprieties, then we will go to the office within a few minutes."

The two who were smoking continued to do so. Don Luis started to describe some of his experiments in raising Spanish mules. The finest mules that come out of Spain, class, in price, with blooded horses. Don Luis talked with the enthusiasm of one who understood and loved mules.

Then, finally, they passed to the office.

"Now, I shall be glad to talk with you for hours," the Mexican hidalgo assured the young engineers.

Dr. Tisco, as though to show that he took no personal interest in

the talk, retired to an armchair at the further end of the room.

Nevertheless, the secretary observed carefully all that was said.

Covertly he studied the faces of the young engineers at all times.

"Ask me what you will," begged Don Luis, as he sank into an easy chair close to the table on which Tom began to arrange his envelopes of specimens taken from the mine.

"First of all, Don Luis," Tom began, "you spoke of some problems that you wished us to solve in the operation of your mine."

"Yes, Senor Tomaso."

"I would like to ask you what the problems are that we are to consider," Tom announced.

"Did you not see some of the problems before you, while we were going through the mine?" inquired Montez.

"At the risk, Don Luis, of appearing stupid, I must confess that

I did not."

"Ah, well, then we shall come to the problems presently. You have other questions. Ask some of them."

For a moment or two Reade studied what he had written on the various envelopes before him. Then he picked out two.

"Here, Don Luis," the young chief engineer went on, "are samples of two lots of ore. The first is from the pile that we found pried loose when we went into the first tunnel that we visited. It is rich ore."

"It is good enough ore," Montez replied, with a polite shrug of the shoulders.

"Now, from the second tunnel that we entered, and where we also found a pile of loose ore, here is another sample. It is as rich as the first sample."

"Certainly, Senor Tomaso."

"But in this second tunnel I had a drilling made and a blast fired. Here," picking up a third envelope and emptying it, "is a sample of the ore that we saw taken from that blast. If this sample contains any gold or silver the quantity is so small, evidently, as to render this kind of ore worthless."

"Yes?" murmured Don Luis, softly. "What is it that you have to say?"

"Why, sir, how does it happen that, right on top of such extra-fine ore we run upon blank rock at the very next blasting."

"That sometimes happens in El Sombrero," Don Luis replied, smoothly,

"How often has it happened?" asked Tom, looking up from the table and glancing keenly at Don Luis.

Dr. Tisco, though he appeared to be almost asleep, stirred uneasily.

"How often has it happened?" repeated Don Luis. "Oh, perhaps a dozen times in a few months, taking all the tunnels together."

"How long have these streaks of blank rock been?" insisted Tom

Reade, while Harry wondered at what his chum was driving.

"How long?" echoed Montez, with a shrug of his shoulders. "Oh, how should I know? Personally I am not interested in such things."

"But have you gone as much as a whole week drilling and blasting through blank rock?" Tom pressed.

"A week? No; not for two days. Of that I am certain. But why do you ask all this, Senor Tomaso?"

"In order that I may better understand the nature of the mine," Reade responded. "I want to know what the chances are, as based on the record of the mine to date. Of course, Don Lu

is, you know what it means, often, when pay ore fails to come out of a streak, and a solid wall of blank rock is encountered."

By "blank rock" Tom meant rock that did not contain a promising or paying amount of metal in the ore.

"What it means?" Montez asked. "No; I can't say that I do."

"The wall of blank rock, found at the end of a vein of gold, Don Luis, often, if not usually, means that the vein has run out, and that it is useless to dig further."

"I did not know that," murmured the Mexican, in a tone of merely polite astonishment. "Then you believe that El Sombrero will not turn out much more profitable ore?"

"I didn't say that," Tom continued. "But I will admit that finding the wall of blank rock ahead made me a bit nervous. Some great mines have been started, Don Luis, as you must be aware. For a few weeks they have panned out ore of the highest value. Much capital has been put into such mines, and for a time men have thought they owned a new Golconda. Then-suddenly-the blank wall, and no more gold has ever come out of that mine. In other words, it was but a pocket of rich gold that had been struck, and nothing more. Hundreds of men have ruined themselves by investing in such mines."

"I see," murmured Don Luis, thoughtfully.

"You did not know this before?" Tom asked, in some amazement.

"No, Senor Tomaso. I have been a good business man, I suppose, for I have prospered; and much of my money has been made in mining. Yet I have never had the assurance to consider myself a practical mining man. Dr. Tisco, here, is-"

"An ignoramus on the subject of mining," declared the secretary, who appeared just then to wake up.

"Carlos is modest," laughed Don Luis. "True, he is not a skilled mining man, yet he knows so much on the subject that, compared with him, I am an ignoramus. But that is what you are here for, you two. You are the experts. Investigate, and then instruct us."

"Have you any record of the number of times that you have encountered the blank rock, and the number of feet in thickness of the wall in each case?" Tom asked.

"Oh, no."

"That is unfortunate," said Reade, thoughtfully. "Hereafter we

will keep such a record carefully. Don Luis, I will admit that

I am perplexed and worried over this blank rock problem. I know

Hazelton is, too."

"Yes, it is very strange," agreed Harry, looking up. Truth to tell, he had hardly been following the talk at all. Harry Hazelton was quite content to be caught napping whenever Tom Reade had his eyes open.

"Now, I would like to go back to the mine and stay there until some time in the night," Tom proposed. "I would like to take Hazelton with me. Soon we will arrange it, if necessary, so that Harry and I shall divide the time at the mine. Whenever, in any of the tunnels, blank rock is struck, whichever one of us is in charge will stay by the blank rock blasting, keeping careful record, until pay ore is struck again."

"You two young engineers are too infernally methodical," grumbled

Dr. Tisco under his breath."

"That is a very excellent plan," smiled Montez, amiably. "We will put some such plan into operation as soon as we are fairly under way. But not to-day."

"I would like to start at once," Tom insisted.

"Not to-day," once more replied Don Luis, though without losing patience. "Yet, if you are anxious to know how the blank rock is coming I can telephone the mine and get all the information within five minutes. That will be an excellent idea. I will do it now, in fact."

Crossing the room, Don Luis rang and called for the mine.

"Our young engineers are very sharp-especially Senor Reade," murmured Dr. Tisco to himself, while the telephone conversation was going on in Spanish. "Yet I wonder if our young engineer does not half suspect that Don Luis has no man at the other end of the wire?"

Tom did not suspect the telephone trick. In fact, the young chief engineer had as yet no deep suspicion that Don Luis was a rogue at heart.

"The report is excellent," called Don Luis, gayly, as he came back. "In that tunnel where we saw the blasting done the blank rock has been penetrated, and the rich ore is coming again."

"How I'd like to see it!" Tom glowed.

"Why?" asked Don Luis, quickly.

"Because I am anxious to know all the secrets, all the indications, of fine old El Sombrero."

"It is a fine mine, isn't it, Senor Tomaso?" demanded Don Luis, enthusiastically.

"From all indications it ought to be," Reade answered. "Yet it's a new formation of rock to me-this sandwich formation as I might call it, with the alternate layers of rich ore and blank stuff."

"I have been drawing up a report on the mine," murmured Montez, opening a drawer in his desk. "This report describes the operations and the profits so far. Glance through it with me."

The report had been written in English, by either Dr. Tisco or his employer.

Tom and Harry listened carefully to the reading.

"But why do you put so much enthusiasm into the report, Don Luis, when the mine is not for sale and is not to be run as a stock company property?"

"Of course, El Sombrero is my sole property, and of course I shall keep it so," smiled the Mexican. "But I like, even in a report to myself, for my own use, to have the report set forth all the truths concerning the mine."

"That is reasonable," Tom agreed.

"Now, Senor Tomaso, as you have seen, this report is couched in my own English. I would be glad if you would write this out for me, putting it into better English."

"It would seem like presumption in me to think that I could put it into better English," Reade protested.

"Nevertheless, to please me, will you put this report into your own English?" requested Don Luis.

"With all the pleasure in the world," Tom assented.

"Here are writing materials, then."

"But I see that you have a typewriting machine over in the corner," suggested the young chief engineer. "I can write the report much better and more rapidly on the machine."

"Ah!" breathed the Mexican, looking highly pleased. "If you will but do that! We will go outside so as not to disturb you."

The report, being a long one and containing several tables of figures, Reade was occupied nearly three hours. During this time Don Luis conducted Harry over the estate, pointing out many things of interest. At last Tom, with a slight backache from bending so long over the machine, leaned back and carefully read what he had written.

"Do you wish anything, caballero?" inquired Nicolas, appearing as though from hiding.

"You might be good enough to tell Don Luis that I have finished, and that I await his pleasure."

Nicolas disappeared. Five minutes later Montez, his secretary and Hazelton came in. Tom read through his typewritten draft of the report.

"Excellent! gr-r-r-rand! glorious!" breathed Don Luis. "Ah, you are a master of English, Senor Tomaso. Myself, I understand Spanish better. And now one stroke of the pen for each of you," added the hidalgo, crossing the room to his desk. "As my new engineers you shall both sign this report, and I shall have much pleasure from reading this, many times, when I am an old man."

Don Luis dipped a pen in ink, then held it up. Harry was about to take the pen when Tom Reade drawled:

"It wouldn't be quite right for us to sign this report, Don Luis."

"Why not?" queried the Mexican, wheeling like a flash.

"Just for the simple reason," Reade answered, "that to sign the report would be to state all the facts contained in the report as being of our personal observation. We haven't seen enough of the mine, as yet, for it to be right for us to sign the report. An engineer's signature to a report is his statement-ON HONOR-that he personally knows such report to be true. So I am very certain you will understand that it would be a breach of honor for us to sign this document."

"Ah! He is clever-and now the real trouble must begin!" Dr. Tisco told himself. "These engineers are not easily duped, but in Don Luis's hands they will destroy themselves!"

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